So, Roma has a match tomorrow against a team few of us have ever heard of and in a competition few of us even care about. The Giallorossi kick off their Europa League campaign tomorrow in the land of Zeman when they travel to the Czech Republic to take on FC Viktoria Plzen, about whom I know next to nothing.
How, then, does one create a thoughtful and accurate match preview? Wikipedia, here we come!
According to the world’s most accurate online encyclopedia (I miss you, Encarta) Viktoria Plzen hail from the city of Plzen, better known to those of us who are cursed with the King’s English as Pilsen a/k/a the place where Pilsner beer was made famous during the 14th century.
I mean, what more do you need to know than that? In all seriousness, we’re cutting this one a bit short due to scheduling, so no offense to any Plzen fans among us, there just isn’t a well spring of readily available information. So instead, we’ll turn our attention to what the players and coaches have to say about tomorrow’s tilt.
First up, the new guy, Bruno Peres, who was insistent that the Europa League, despite its smaller stature, is no cake walk.
We have to play like we did in the second half...We know it’s an important game, but a difficult one. It’ll take the spirit of the second half against Sampdoria to win the game.
It’s a difficult group, it seems easy but it’s not, on the pitch it’s totally different. You have to do well to win games. I believe we have the ability to play a very good group and get to the end.
Pretty standard boiler plate there, but it’s interesting he mentioned the club’s second half performance against Sampdoria. There was a marked difference between Roma’s performance in the first and second halves over the weekend, much of which had to do with Luciano Spalletti’s substitutions.
Bringing on Edin Dzeko and later Francesco Totti transformed the shape and pace of Roma’s attack, as they stormed back from a 2-1 deficit to win the match 3-2. The question, then, as it seemingly is every week now, is simply which formation will Spalletti use from the get go: the strikerless Stephan El Shaarawy-Diego Perotti-Mohamed Salah trio or a more traditional Dzeko-led attack?
Speaking to his selection choices, Spalletti focused mainly on the defense:
We are working hard on the defence and realise how important it is to remain solid at the back. Tomorrow we’ll be able to use new players like Fazio, who is a good player and won’t be as fatigued as the others.
Vermaelen is available, but playing him right away could create problems for the next game. My intention, if possible, is to not use him tomorrow.
Juan Jesus had a slight ankle problem and my intention is to use Jesus, Fazio and (Kostas) Manolas
Yikes. So Vermaelen will most likely be riding the pine and Rrruan is hurt. Viktoria Plzen or not, this is as suboptimal as it gets for Roma’s backline.
Spalletti then shifted the discussion to his vaunted attack, specifically last week’s hero Francesco Totti.
I cannot promise anything, the game will dictate my actions. I have many strong players and can’t play them all. Francesco is a genius of football. It is always a pleasure to see him, but he is of a certain age. This disappoints everyone, but we must learn to use him in the right way
Listen, I love Spalletti and was overjoyed when he came back, but cut the shit, Luciano. He’s of a certain age? You must learn to use him in the right way? You’ve had seven months to figure this out now, and during that time, one thing has proved axiomatic. Certain age or not, Totti is perhaps the best game changer in the league. There is no mystery here: you get roughly 100-120 minutes of effective Totti a month...so fucking use it!
That’s about all we’ve got for now, but don’t get it twisted, the opponent may not be well known, but Roma can, has, and will always happen.
Stay vigilant, my friends.
FC Viktoria Plzen v. Roma
September 15, 2016
19:00 CET, 13:00 EDT
Doosan Arena, Plzen, Czech Republic.